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Thread: Peter Turchin: US-History Cycles

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    Peter Turchin: US-History Cycles

    First, Cliodynamics is back in action.

    Peter Turchin and his colleagues have found two kinds of cycle in large-scale human societies: a 2-generation cycle of bursts of social violence, and a couple-centuries-long cycle of growth and decay. Might it be present in more recent societies? Nations in recent centuries have gotten more and more intertwined, though the United States has continued to relatively autonomous, almost to the point of being almost absurdly provincial. However, he's found a wealth of data on the US, and lo and behold, he has found similar cycles for the US also.

    Dynamics of political instability in the United States, 1780–2010 reported on in Human cycles: History as science : Nature News & Comment:
    Sometimes, history really does seem to repeat itself. After the US Civil War, for example, a wave of urban violence fuelled by ethnic and class resentment swept across the country, peaking in about 1870. Internal strife spiked again in around 1920, when race riots, workers' strikes and a surge of anti-Communist feeling led many people to think that revolution was imminent. And in around 1970, unrest crested once more, with violent student demonstrations, political assassinations, riots and terrorism (see 'Cycles of violence').

    To Peter Turchin, who studies population dynamics at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, the appearance of three peaks of political instability at roughly 50-year intervals is not a coincidence. For the past 15 years, Turchin has been taking the mathematical techniques that once allowed him to track predator–prey cycles in forest ecosystems, and applying them to human history. He has analysed historical records on economic activity, demographic trends and outbursts of violence in the United States, and has come to the conclusion that a new wave of internal strife is already on its way. The peak should occur in about 2020, he says, and will probably be at least as high as the one in around 1970. “I hope it won't be as bad as 1870,” he adds.
    More: Article reprint, Appendices, Data
    PT sorted his data on violent incidents out into
    • Political
    • Labor or Economic
    • Racially motivated
    • Vigilante

    In his A Feature Article in Nature on Cliodynamics | Social Evolution Forum he broke the data down in a different way:
    • Riots: group vs. group
    • Lynchings: group vs. individual (or small group)
    • Terrorism: individual (or small group) vs. group

    I noted small groups out of completeness.

    PT's data collection starts at the American Revolutionary War, and his fathers-and-sons cycle is rather apparent, with big spikes around 1870, 1920, and 1970. There's no spike in 1820, the Era of Good Feelings, however. But the American Revolutionary War fits that cycle's timing, as does the Boston Revolt of 1689. Thus, PT speculates that the US will suffer some major strife around 2020.

    Comparing these spikes with Arthur Schlesinger's liberal-conservative cycle reveals that the 1870, 1920, and 1970 spikes occurred near the end of various liberal periods. However, PT's proposed 2020 spike will not be at the end of a liberal period but near the beginning of one, or even in the conservative one we are in now, Gilded Age II. Like PT, AS speculates about generational shifts, with generations reacting against the previous ones.


    PT also identifies a long-term cycle, but his data are only enough to identify about 1.5 complete ones. But it is still interesting what correlations he finds.

    The Double Helix of Inequality and Well-Being | Social Evolution Forum noting Peter Turchin – The history of inequality He collected several sorts of statistics, detrended them, and then normalized them to look for cycles. Normalized: mean = 0, stdev = 1.

    What Proxy Direction
    Labor oversupply Proportion of population born outside the USA -
    Price of labor Wage in relation to GDP per capita +
    Biological well-being/Health Average stature and life expectancy +
    Social optimism Age at first marriage (both sexes) -
    Wealth inequality Largest fortune in relation to the median wage -
    Intra-elite competition/conflict Political polarization in the Congress -
    Sociopolitical instability Fatalities per 5 years per 1 million population -

    1800: 0.4
    1824: 0.8 - Era of Good Feelings
    1904: -1.4 - Gilded Age bottoming out
    1960: 1.3 - Eisenhower/Kennedy era
    2000: -0.3

    Evidence of a downward trend:
    The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America | Social Evolution Forum
    The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America II | Social Evolution Forum
    The End of Prosperity: Why Did Real Wages Stop Growing in the 1970s? | Social Evolution Forum
    Cutting through the Thicket of Economic Forces (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing II) | Social Evolution Forum
    A Proxy for Non-Market Forces (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing III) | Social Evolution Forum
    Putting It All Together (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing IV) | Social Evolution Forum
    More on Labor Supply (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing V) | Social Evolution Forum
    The Road to Disunion | Social Evolution Forum
    PT:
    But as I read the today’s news, I am struck by how many parallels there are between the 2010s and the 1850s, especially on the political front.

    Before 1850 the United States had a stable political landscape dominated by two main parties: the Democrats and the Whigs. During the 1850s this “Second Party System” collapsed.

    The Democrats split along the Southern/Northern divide, while the Whig party simply disintegrated. In his 1976 book, The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861, the historian David Potter describes a stunning array of parties and factions with which the voters were presented in 1854. These included: Democrats, Whigs, Free Soilers, Republicans, People’s party men, Anti-Nebraskaites, Fusionists, Know-Nothings, Know-Somethings, Main Lawites, Temperance men, Rum Democrats, Silver Gray Whigs, Hindoos, Hard Shell Democrats, Soft Shells, Half Shells, and Adopted Citizens.
    Major strife, like In Washington budget war, hype and hyperbole seize the floor | Reuters. Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz compared Republicans who don't agree with him to appeasers of Nazi Germany. John McCain resented that remark, but then again, he had called Ted Cruz and his friends "wacko birds". Sen. Harry Reid called the "Tea Party anarchists" the "weird caucus", and Sen. Mike Lee called the Democrats the "political ruling class" and "crony capitalists" who support "socialized medicine".
    It's "high noon," cautioned Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, "as dangerous as the breakup of the Union before the Civil War."
    PT commented that TH does not know how right he is.

    Back in the 1950's and 1960's, however, US political elites were remarkably unified, with Democrats and Republicans often getting along very well. Much like in the Era of Good Feelings in the 1820's. PT speculates that it was fear of revolution that made US elites decide to tolerate labor unions and to buy off their underlings with good pay and good job security. But more recently, as Communism has faded, the elites have decided to keep more for themselves and give less to their underlings, often making up the difference with expanded consumer credit.

    So the US will be having a rough ride in the coming years.

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    Cool Most people do not realize that the Constitution was mostly written for the ruling colonial elite to maintain their wealth and power.

    You bring up a very interesting and important thesis Ipetrich in how we can notice and observe "cycles" in societies. And by seeing these cycles their direct correlation to economic influence on the masses it does percolate to the top like a boiling pot. I agree with most of the research Turchin uses in his vast study. I have concluded that over the years of American history and its cycles we can see how the middle class, "middlings, and the lower classes, the poor, are played and positioned against each other. How the poor whites are taught to look down on the people of color and see them as a direct threat in the work force. How the various "progressive " ideologies were taught to the masses as somehow being a detriment to their station and position in society; unions are bad, strikes are bad, the government equals socialism etc. Yet people will only take so much spoon fed tripe and conditioning till they are hungry, can not house their families, can not get work, etc. When we stack up and compare America to other advance western nations we seem to be at the bottom in poverty, health, happiness, etc. Maybe it will finally boil to the top in 2020 as Turchin concludes.

    Two classic examples rarely brought up in this nations's emergence are the various rebellions and uprisings like the Whiskey Rebellion and Shays Rebellions. People were killed after being fed up with how the economic system favored the wealthy and politically connected. The response by the state was an easing in some instances that help alleviate the people's sufferings. We can see this reaction and action over the years as Turchin has documented in his work. Even today the wealthy people's kids still do not go into the service and into harms way. Well maybe a few for certain reasons for social advancement. So there is a pattern and cycle that reveals itself.

    What is interesting is that we can see these types of actions and reactions in the datum mentioned in the 1700's to the 1970's. And the conclusion is that there will be some kind of uprising or upheaval in 2020! Notice that the two biggest historical events on the planet in the 19th and 20th century were the U.S. Civil War and WW2 respectively. What is really interesting in that post WW2 environment with the Washington Consensus, the WTO, the IMF, etc., wealth is being even more concentrated then any other time in history. Also the obvious fact that the biggest gains in America and the emergence of the middle class as a force to be reckoned with were in the post WW2 era with the highest tax rates in America history. We also see the largest union membership during this same period of sustained economic growth in the history of this nation. What happened? Is it greed or is it a reaction to this middle class growth?

    Is not this observance of a generational cycle and a 100 year cycle in America history pretty fascinating? Applying these theories to other empires would probably reveal other cyclical correlations. Thanks for the thread and spot on.

    Peace

    Pegasus

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    Quote Originally Posted by pegasus8 View Post
    Also the obvious fact that the biggest gains in America and the emergence of the middle class as a force to be reckoned with were in the post WW2 era with the highest tax rates in America history. We also see the largest union membership during this same period of sustained economic growth in the history of this nation. What happened? Is it greed or is it a reaction to this middle class growth?
    Peter Turchin – The history of inequality PT proposes that it's the economic elite coming to take its position for granted. The West Virginia Mine War of 1920-21 and similar strife had become ancient history, and Communism was weakening, so the economic elite felt less desire to sacrifice its potential earnings to appease the masses. The economic elite also suffered from the bear market and the inflation of 1973-82, and its members felt that they got too little for their efforts. PT suggests that this was like how the French aristocrats around 1788 had little memory of the Fronde, some civil wars in France between 1648 and 1653. When Communism fell in Europe, it seemed like a vindication for ultracapitalist ideology.

    Quote Originally Posted by pegasus8
    Is not this observance of a generational cycle and a 100 year cycle in America history pretty fascinating? Applying these theories to other empires would probably reveal other cyclical correlations. Thanks for the thread and spot on.
    I have a thread on that: Peter Turchin's Cycles of History He discusses the last 2500 years of Europe and China.

    PT again:
    Our society, like all previous complex societies, is on a rollercoaster. Impersonal social forces bring us to the top; then comes the inevitable plunge. But the descent is not inevitable. Ours is the first society that can perceive how those forces operate, even if dimly. This means that we can avoid the worst — perhaps by switching to a less harrowing track, perhaps by redesigning the rollercoaster altogether.
    Something like Isaac Asimov's science-fiction story "Nightfall". An Earthlike planet with humanlike inhabitants is continually illuminated by its suns, but every 2000 years there is a mysterious darkness. Some scientists there have worked out what has happened, and they have also prepared to attempt to survive that darkness without going nuts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    First, Cliodynamics is back in action.

    Peter Turchin and his colleagues have found two kinds of cycle in large-scale human societies: a 2-generation cycle of bursts of social violence, and a couple-centuries-long cycle of growth and decay. Might it be present in more recent societies? Nations in recent centuries have gotten more and more intertwined, though the United States has continued to relatively autonomous, almost to the point of being almost absurdly provincial. However, he's found a wealth of data on the US, and lo and behold, he has found similar cycles for the US also.

    Dynamics of political instability in the United States, 1780–2010 reported on in Human cycles: History as science : Nature News & Comment:

    More: Article reprint, Appendices, Data
    PT sorted his data on violent incidents out into
    • Political
    • Labor or Economic
    • Racially motivated
    • Vigilante

    In his A Feature Article in Nature on Cliodynamics | Social Evolution Forum he broke the data down in a different way:
    • Riots: group vs. group
    • Lynchings: group vs. individual (or small group)
    • Terrorism: individual (or small group) vs. group

    I noted small groups out of completeness.

    PT's data collection starts at the American Revolutionary War, and his fathers-and-sons cycle is rather apparent, with big spikes around 1870, 1920, and 1970. There's no spike in 1820, the Era of Good Feelings, however. But the American Revolutionary War fits that cycle's timing, as does the Boston Revolt of 1689. Thus, PT speculates that the US will suffer some major strife around 2020.

    Comparing these spikes with Arthur Schlesinger's liberal-conservative cycle reveals that the 1870, 1920, and 1970 spikes occurred near the end of various liberal periods. However, PT's proposed 2020 spike will not be at the end of a liberal period but near the beginning of one, or even in the conservative one we are in now, Gilded Age II. Like PT, AS speculates about generational shifts, with generations reacting against the previous ones.


    PT also identifies a long-term cycle, but his data are only enough to identify about 1.5 complete ones. But it is still interesting what correlations he finds.

    The Double Helix of Inequality and Well-Being | Social Evolution Forum noting Peter Turchin – The history of inequality He collected several sorts of statistics, detrended them, and then normalized them to look for cycles. Normalized: mean = 0, stdev = 1.

    What Proxy Direction
    Labor oversupply Proportion of population born outside the USA -
    Price of labor Wage in relation to GDP per capita +
    Biological well-being/Health Average stature and life expectancy +
    Social optimism Age at first marriage (both sexes) -
    Wealth inequality Largest fortune in relation to the median wage -
    Intra-elite competition/conflict Political polarization in the Congress -
    Sociopolitical instability Fatalities per 5 years per 1 million population -

    1800: 0.4
    1824: 0.8 - Era of Good Feelings
    1904: -1.4 - Gilded Age bottoming out
    1960: 1.3 - Eisenhower/Kennedy era
    2000: -0.3

    Evidence of a downward trend:
    The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America | Social Evolution Forum
    The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America II | Social Evolution Forum
    The End of Prosperity: Why Did Real Wages Stop Growing in the 1970s? | Social Evolution Forum
    Cutting through the Thicket of Economic Forces (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing II) | Social Evolution Forum
    A Proxy for Non-Market Forces (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing III) | Social Evolution Forum
    Putting It All Together (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing IV) | Social Evolution Forum
    More on Labor Supply (Why Real Wages Stopped Growing V) | Social Evolution Forum
    The Road to Disunion | Social Evolution Forum
    PT:
    But as I read the today’s news, I am struck by how many parallels there are between the 2010s and the 1850s, especially on the political front.

    Before 1850 the United States had a stable political landscape dominated by two main parties: the Democrats and the Whigs. During the 1850s this “Second Party System” collapsed.

    The Democrats split along the Southern/Northern divide, while the Whig party simply disintegrated. In his 1976 book, The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861, the historian David Potter describes a stunning array of parties and factions with which the voters were presented in 1854. These included: Democrats, Whigs, Free Soilers, Republicans, People’s party men, Anti-Nebraskaites, Fusionists, Know-Nothings, Know-Somethings, Main Lawites, Temperance men, Rum Democrats, Silver Gray Whigs, Hindoos, Hard Shell Democrats, Soft Shells, Half Shells, and Adopted Citizens.
    Major strife, like In Washington budget war, hype and hyperbole seize the floor | Reuters. Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz compared Republicans who don't agree with him to appeasers of Nazi Germany. John McCain resented that remark, but then again, he had called Ted Cruz and his friends "wacko birds". Sen. Harry Reid called the "Tea Party anarchists" the "weird caucus", and Sen. Mike Lee called the Democrats the "political ruling class" and "crony capitalists" who support "socialized medicine".
    It's "high noon," cautioned Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, "as dangerous as the breakup of the Union before the Civil War."
    PT commented that TH does not know how right he is.

    Back in the 1950's and 1960's, however, US political elites were remarkably unified, with Democrats and Republicans often getting along very well. Much like in the Era of Good Feelings in the 1820's. PT speculates that it was fear of revolution that made US elites decide to tolerate labor unions and to buy off their underlings with good pay and good job security. But more recently, as Communism has faded, the elites have decided to keep more for themselves and give less to their underlings, often making up the difference with expanded consumer credit.

    So the US will be having a rough ride in the coming years.
    I certainly agree that the US will have a rough ride in the coming years, but I'm not sure how much political cycles have to do with it. If I were to offer an explanation, I would suggest that it rests much more on economic cycles than political ones, but I haven't really compared economic and political cycles all that much. However, the rough ride ahead will most likely be the result of an economic breakdown in the US on a number of levels including monetary, budgetary, and a collapse of the dollar with a corresponding decline in the standard of living. It wouldn't be surprising if that produced protests and riots.

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    Ipetrich writes:

    Peter Turchin – The history of inequality PT proposes that it's the economic elite coming to take its position for granted. The West Virginia Mine War of 1920-21 and similar strife had become ancient history, and Communism was weakening, so the economic elite felt less desire to sacrifice its potential earnings to appease the masses. The economic elite also suffered from the bear market and the inflation of 1973-82, and its members felt that they got too little for their efforts.
    This strikes me as a huge over-simplification if not an outright distortion of history. I assume that what is referenced here is the growth in inequality in the 20's and again in the '80's. But growing inequality is a common characteristic of a growing economy for the simple reason that, when times are good people who seek profits can attain them more easily while people who do not seek profits, even though they may prosper, will not prosper as much.

    But you also have the problem that suggesting that elites were less willing to sacrifice profits also suggests that they were more willing in a previous period. But where is the evidence that the elites voluntarily sacrificed profits in the WW I era or in the 70's? Is it even viable in a capitalistic system for elites to sacrifice profits? Such an effort would put you at a competitive disadvantage.

    This sounds to me like fuzzy thinking at best, and perhaps no more than wild conjecture unless the author has a whole lot more evidence to back up his claim.

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    boneyard bill, I suggest that you not quote all of a long post unless you want to comment on each part of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    ... So the US will be having a rough ride in the coming years.
    I certainly agree that the US will have a rough ride in the coming years, but I'm not sure how much political cycles have to do with it. If I were to offer an explanation, I would suggest that it rests much more on economic cycles than political ones, but I haven't really compared economic and political cycles all that much. However, the rough ride ahead will most likely be the result of an economic breakdown in the US on a number of levels including monetary, budgetary, and a collapse of the dollar with a corresponding decline in the standard of living. It wouldn't be surprising if that produced protests and riots.
    So the value of its money is a key feature of a society?

    Peter Turchin has found out otherwise. He proposes this cycle:
    • Integrative - centralized, unified elites, strong state, order, stability -- wars of conquest against neighbors
      • Expansion (Growth) - population increases
      • Stagflation (Compression) - population levels off, elites increase
    • Disintegrative - decentralized, divided elites, weak state, disorder, instability -- civil wars
      • Crisis (State Breakdown) - population declines, elites continue, lots of strife
      • Depression - population stays low, civil wars, elites get pruned
    • Intercycle - if it takes time to form a strong state


    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill View Post
    Ipetrich writes:

    Peter Turchin – The history of inequality PT proposes that it's the economic elite coming to take its position for granted. The West Virginia Mine War of 1920-21 and similar strife had become ancient history, and Communism was weakening, so the economic elite felt less desire to sacrifice its potential earnings to appease the masses. The economic elite also suffered from the bear market and the inflation of 1973-82, and its members felt that they got too little for their efforts.
    This strikes me as a huge over-simplification if not an outright distortion of history. I assume that what is referenced here is the growth in inequality in the 20's and again in the '80's. But growing inequality is a common characteristic of a growing economy for the simple reason that, when times are good people who seek profits can attain them more easily while people who do not seek profits, even though they may prosper, will not prosper as much.
    Thomas Piketty has found the opposite. He crunched the numbers, so you can't simply dismiss him as a Marxist. He found just the opposite of what you claim, as Peter Turchin has done. It's rapidly-growing eras that are the most egalitarian. Consider the Great Compression in the US in World War II. The postwar era continued that egalitarianism until the 1970's, and the economy grew rapidly in that time. TP found that the economy has actually been growing more slowly in recent decades than earlier, so it's the elites getting bigger and bigger slices of a more slowly-growing pie. PT also finds that as he studied past societies. He found that as the initial growth slows down and becomes stagflation, the elites grow out of proportion. Eventually, the elites start fighting among themselves for control of key resources and society goes into decline.

    Peter Turchin again: How Elite Overproduction Brings Disorder | Social Evolution Forum, Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays - Bloomberg View
    Below the Surface: the Structural-Demographic Roots of the Current Political Crisis | Social Evolution Forum
    Bimodal Lawyers: How Extreme Competition Breeds Extreme Inequality | Social Evolution Forum

    He talks about "elite overproduction" and greater competition for a limited number of top slots. This makes for greater inequality among elites as well as with respect to the rest of the population. The 1% do much better than the 99%, and the 0.01% much better than the 0.99%. About US lawyers, he noted that their number increased from 0.16% to 0.39% of the population over the last 40 years, and he found that their income distribution had a curious trend. From a typical peak with an upward tail to a fat peak at $50K/year and a spike at $160K/year -- bimodal.

    The final thought. Revolutions are often made by frustrated elite aspirants. There is a disproportionate number of lawyers among them. Abraham Lincoln, the leader of what really amounted to the Second American Revolution was, of course, a lawyer. And so were Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro…
    That's also true of the first American Revolution. Plenty of lawyers among the signers of the US Declaration of Independence, and in the committee that composed the US Constitution.

    That may also be true of the French Revolution. I can't find any convenient Who's Who of its most notable participants, but at least two of them had been lawyers: Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre. Georges Danton was an important figure in overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the First French Republic, and Maximilien Robespierre was the guillotinemeister of the Reign of Terror. During that era, GD became more moderate and got guillotined for that, and that era ended when MR's colleagues decided to avoid that fate by guillotining him.

    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill
    But you also have the problem that suggesting that elites were less willing to sacrifice profits also suggests that they were more willing in a previous period. But where is the evidence that the elites voluntarily sacrificed profits in the WW I era or in the 70's? Is it even viable in a capitalistic system for elites to sacrifice profits? Such an effort would put you at a competitive disadvantage.
    Hasn't it ever occurred to you that there may be good reasons to *avoid* seeking a lot of profit? One is to avoid getting a bad image of oneself as greedy. Not everybody believes in the supposed glorious goodness of greed. Another is a deliberate strategy of underselling one's competition, even being willing to lose money to put one's competition out of business.

    Also, many right-wingers think that it's wrong for anyone but business leaders to be greedy -- they often complain about just about everybody else being greedy.

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    Cool The 70's were a great tine to work and catch the roller coaster riding to the top till the crooks got control of the reigns of power.

    I would suggest the fact that in the 70's CEO's, CBO's, presidents, etc., did not make these outrageous salaries compared to the poor slobs in the trenches. But we all know that since the 80's with good ole Ronnie in the White House it was made popular and in vogue to hate on poor people. Hence this repugnant policy of the pyramid being so pointed at its apex in relationship to salaries. Milton Freedman and his Chicago school of economics have transformed our nation and a large portion of the world for the worse, IMO. Yet it makes wealth that is mostly concentrated at the apex of the pyramid. Heh at least it only took about 40 years to destroy the unions and shrink the ever dwindling middle class, aka the working class slobs like you and I. It sucks when IKEA laughs at America's worker polices that pay crap and offer next to nothing in benefits. But then were all making a butt load of money; just ask the good ol' boys on Wall Street.

    I learned out there being a business owner that it pays to pay your staff good wages to keep morale high and retain the good help. Yet today it is 100 people looking for those 3 job openings!!!!

    Peace and I am glad that Boneyard jumped in on this erudite thread Ipetrich. Most people do not want to wrap their minds around this one. Nom' saying? My first real job was frying chicken in a grocery store snack bar. I thought that I was soooooo f'n cool in school at 16 making $2 bucks an hour. What the "F' happen to those days? Now you make about $8 bucks an hour, at 16, and it can buy you a cup of coffee! WTF?

    Pegasus

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    lpetrich writes:

    boneyard bill, I suggest that you not quote all of a long post unless you want to comment on each part of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill View Post
    So the US will be having a rough ride in the coming years.
    I certainly agree that the US will have a rough ride in the coming years, but I'm not sure how much political cycles have to do with it. If I were to offer an explanation, I would suggest that it rests much more on economic cycles than political ones, but I haven't really compared economic and political cycles all that much. However, the rough ride ahead will most likely be the result of an economic breakdown in the US on a number of levels including monetary, budgetary, and a collapse of the dollar with a corresponding decline in the standard of living. It wouldn't be surprising if that produced protests and riots.
    So the value of its money is a key feature of a society?
    I shouldn't think that that would be a very controversial claim. Of course it is. But I make the point here only to indicate that I agree with PT's essential claim about the immediate future, but I'm not so sure about his theory of cycles. After all, I haven't read it so I can only critiques bits and pieces of what you write about it.

    Peter Turchin has found out otherwise. He proposes this cycle:
    • Integrative - centralized, unified elites, strong state, order, stability -- wars of conquest against neighbors
      • Expansion (Growth) - population increases
      • Stagflation (Compression) - population levels off, elites increase
    • Disintegrative - decentralized, divided elites, weak state, disorder, instability -- civil wars
      • Crisis (State Breakdown) - population declines, elites continue, lots of strife
      • Depression - population stays low, civil wars, elites get pruned
    • Intercycle - if it takes time to form a strong state
    Of course "stagflation" would certainly be an economic element, but I think you meant "stagnation" which is less clearly an exclusive economic reference. But certainly, population is an important economic factor and don't see how economics can be left out of most of the scenario you describe above. The real question is to what extent economic policy is a cause and to what extent it is an effect of other factors. I suspect that it cannot be easily isolated in that regard. But I'm not arguing that economics is the only element in such cycles or even the crucial one. My point is that I see it as the crucial element in the current state of nation's affairs and of Western civilization generally.

    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill View Post
    Ipetrich writes:

    Peter Turchin – The history of inequality PT proposes that it's the economic elite coming to take its position for granted. The West Virginia Mine War of 1920-21 and similar strife had become ancient history, and Communism was weakening, so the economic elite felt less desire to sacrifice its potential earnings to appease the masses. The economic elite also suffered from the bear market and the inflation of 1973-82, and its members felt that they got too little for their efforts.
    This strikes me as a huge over-simplification if not an outright distortion of history. I assume that what is referenced here is the growth in inequality in the 20's and again in the '80's. But growing inequality is a common characteristic of a growing economy for the simple reason that, when times are good people who seek profits can attain them more easily while people who do not seek profits, even though they may prosper, will not prosper as much.
    Thomas Piketty has found the opposite. He crunched the numbers, so you can't simply dismiss him as a Marxist. He found just the opposite of what you claim, as Peter Turchin has done. It's rapidly-growing eras that are the most egalitarian. Consider the Great Compression in the US in World War II. The postwar era continued that egalitarianism until the 1970's, and the economy grew rapidly in that time. TP found that the economy has actually been growing more slowly in recent decades than earlier, so it's the elites getting bigger and bigger slices of a more slowly-growing pie. PT also finds that as he studied past societies. He found that as the initial growth slows down and becomes stagflation, the elites grow out of proportion. Eventually, the elites start fighting among themselves for control of key resources and society goes into decline.
    Then your citation of Turchin citing the 20's and the 80's is an exception to the rule and not illustrative of the point that he is trying to make so I'm not sure what the point of that citation is at all.

    I would suggest however, that there is a huge difference between the growing inequality of the 20's and the 80's and the current growth of inequality which is due, not simply to the rich getting richer, but also to the poor getting poorer. So we really have three models to look at: relative inequality, absolute inequality, and declining inequality. Now, how you can discuss these phenomena without looking at economic data and economic policy seems to me to be a mystery. So any study of cycles strikes me as necessarily involving a study of economic cycles as well.



    Peter Turchin again: How Elite Overproduction Brings Disorder | Social Evolution Forum, Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays - Bloomberg View
    Below the Surface: the Structural-Demographic Roots of the Current Political Crisis | Social Evolution Forum
    Bimodal Lawyers: How Extreme Competition Breeds Extreme Inequality | Social Evolution Forum

    He talks about "elite overproduction" and greater competition for a limited number of top slots. This makes for greater inequality among elites as well as with respect to the rest of the population. The 1% do much better than the 99%, and the 0.01% much better than the 0.99%. About US lawyers, he noted that their number increased from 0.16% to 0.39% of the population over the last 40 years, and he found that their income distribution had a curious trend. From a typical peak with an upward tail to a fat peak at $50K/year and a spike at $160K/year -- bimodal.
    If he's talking about cycles, then he seems to be suggesting that what we are seeing at the present time has occurred previously in history and, presumably, quite a few times before. What does he suggest is the cause of this?

    The final thought. Revolutions are often made by frustrated elite aspirants. There is a disproportionate number of lawyers among them. Abraham Lincoln, the leader of what really amounted to the Second American Revolution was, of course, a lawyer. And so were Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro…
    That's also true of the first American Revolution. Plenty of lawyers among the signers of the US Declaration of Independence, and in the committee that composed the US Constitution.

    That may also be true of the French Revolution. I can't find any convenient Who's Who of its most notable participants, but at least two of them had been lawyers: Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre. Georges Danton was an important figure in overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the First French Republic, and Maximilien Robespierre was the guillotinemeister of the Reign of Terror. During that era, GD became more moderate and got guillotined for that, and that era ended when MR's colleagues decided to avoid that fate by guillotining him.
    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill
    But you also have the problem that suggesting that elites were less willing to sacrifice profits also suggests that they were more willing in a previous period. But where is the evidence that the elites voluntarily sacrificed profits in the WW I era or in the 70's? Is it even viable in a capitalistic system for elites to sacrifice profits? Such an effort would put you at a competitive disadvantage.
    I believe there were a great many lawyers involved in the French Revolution, but I can't think that Lincoln was a "frustrated elitist" in anything like the way you might pin that label on Lenin or Castro. Although I agree that Lincoln led a virtual second American revolution, I don't think that was intent at all. Likewise with the American Revolutionaries. They were responding to events as much as they were trying to shape them. They didn't have the kind of ideological vision that characterized Lenin and Castro.

    Hasn't it ever occurred to you that there may be good reasons to *avoid* seeking a lot of profit? One is to avoid getting a bad image of oneself as greedy. Not everybody believes in the supposed glorious goodness of greed. Another is a deliberate strategy of underselling one's competition, even being willing to lose money to put one's competition out of business.
    Of course, but I wouldn't characterize that policy as any kind of sacrifice. You go to an auto parts store and get a part. You take it home and ruin it while trying to destroy it because of your own incompetence. Then you take it back and they give you another one, no questions asked. Is that an altruistic policy? I don't think so. I think they've simply found that it's good business. Perhaps its enlightened self-interest, but it's still self-interest.

    With regard to your second example, such a policy might drive your competition out of business, but it would drive you out of business too. If you sought to recoup your losses by subsequently increasing your prices, you would simply attract more low-cost competitors into the market. So that certainly wouldn't apply to the situation Turchan has set up.

    So I still see this as a problem. If businesses raise their profits over previous parts of the cycle due to less generosity, how do you explain the greater generosity in the first place? And if the greater generosity was due to enlightened self-interest, what made the enlightenment or the self-interest disappear?

    Also, many right-wingers think that it's wrong for anyone but business leaders to be greedy -- they often complain about just about everybody else being greedy
    You'd have to explain what you mean by "right winger" for me to make any sense of this. But those who advocate free markets, or just about anyone who studies market economics for that matter, takes greed for granted. If you didn't expect to gain by an exchange, why would you make it? So I don't see where "greed" is seen as a vice at all by whomever undertakes it. Unless by "right winger" you mean a National Socialist or someone of that ilk.

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    Twilight of the Elites. Or the Unintended Consequences of Meritocracy | Social Evolution Forum
    So what is Hayes’ explanation for these collective failures of political, economic, and ideological/intellectual elites? It will come as a surprise to many, but he points the finger at meritocracy – “a ruling class composed of bright and industrious members of all classes.” Before the 1960s America was ruled by the Protestant Establishment. Children of the established elites were preferentially admitted to the best universities and after graduation given the pick of the best jobs in government, corporations, and law firms. African-Americans, Jews, and Catholics, on the other hand, were severely discriminated against.

    During the 1960s all this changed. Entrance to the Ivy League universities, for example, became much more meritocratic, and there was a mass entry of the smart and hard-working members from previously excluded groups. This was clearly good, because the previous system was patently unfair. However, the new system resulted in some unanticipated consequences. The main one was that the massive increase in the numbers of ‘elite aspirants,’ individuals vying for power positions in politics and economy, has resulted in a correspondingly massive increase in intraelite competition. “Societies whose upper class is marked by birth, title, and lineage do not tend to cultivate a voracious appetite for competition in the same way ours does.”

    And internal competition, as the CMLS theory tells us, is corrosive of cooperation and social cohesion, which are the basis of good and effective government. “[W]ithout the social cohesion that trusted institutions provide, we cannot produce the level of consensus necessary to confront our greatest challenges.”
    In Sticking My Neck Out | Social Evolution Forum, he concedes that there are problems with doing research on recent events:
    First, we are too close to the societies we live in. ...

    The second danger is politics. Few people really care about why the Roman Empire collapsed. But any conclusions you reach about our own society are certain to tick off either conservatives, or liberals (and sometimes both).
    The plus side is much better quality of data than what one can usually get for previous centuries.

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    Thanx for commenting on each part of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill View Post
    So the value of its money is a key feature of a society?
    I shouldn't think that that would be a very controversial claim.
    For what reason? I don't think that there is anything special about money as compared to other assets that a society may have.
    But I make the point here only to indicate that I agree with PT's essential claim about the immediate future, but I'm not so sure about his theory of cycles. After all, I haven't read it so I can only critiques bits and pieces of what you write about it.
    You could read the originals, or try to check on his data sources. Armchair pontificating isn't going to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich
    Peter Turchin has found out otherwise. He proposes this cycle:
    • Integrative - centralized, unified elites, strong state, order, stability -- wars of conquest against neighbors
      • Expansion (Growth) - population increases
      • Stagflation (Compression) - population levels off, elites increase
    • Disintegrative - decentralized, divided elites, weak state, disorder, instability -- civil wars
      • Crisis (State Breakdown) - population declines, elites continue, lots of strife
      • Depression - population stays low, civil wars, elites get pruned
    • Intercycle - if it takes time to form a strong state
    I'm repeating this for reference.

    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill
    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill View Post
    Ipetrich writes:

    Peter Turchin – The history of inequality PT proposes that it's the economic elite coming to take its position for granted. The West Virginia Mine War of 1920-21 and similar strife had become ancient history, and Communism was weakening, so the economic elite felt less desire to sacrifice its potential earnings to appease the masses. The economic elite also suffered from the bear market and the inflation of 1973-82, and its members felt that they got too little for their efforts.
    This strikes me as a huge over-simplification if not an outright distortion of history. I assume that what is referenced here is the growth in inequality in the 20's and again in the '80's. But growing inequality is a common characteristic of a growing economy for the simple reason that, when times are good people who seek profits can attain them more easily while people who do not seek profits, even though they may prosper, will not prosper as much.
    Thomas Piketty has found the opposite. He crunched the numbers, so you can't simply dismiss him as a Marxist. He found just the opposite of what you claim, as Peter Turchin has done. It's rapidly-growing eras that are the most egalitarian.
    Then your citation of Turchin citing the 20's and the 80's is an exception to the rule and not illustrative of the point that he is trying to make so I'm not sure what the point of that citation is at all.
    How convenient. Just wave away awkward facts and one can then celebrate the triumph of one's theory.

    Quote Originally Posted by boneyard bill
    If he's talking about cycles, then he seems to be suggesting that what we are seeing at the present time has occurred previously in history and, presumably, quite a few times before. What does he suggest is the cause of this?
    What I mentioned earlier. First society grows in an egalitarian sort of fashion. Then elites get bigger and bigger until society gets top-heavy with them. They start fighting each other and many of the elites fall into commoner status or flee or get killed. It's something like a predatory-prey cycle or a host-parasite cycle.


    The final thought. Revolutions are often made by frustrated elite aspirants. There is a disproportionate number of lawyers among them. Abraham Lincoln, the leader of what really amounted to the Second American Revolution was, of course, a lawyer. And so were Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro…
    (snipped: a lot of a priori armchair pontificating about business strategies) Which is why I prefer a more empirical approach.

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